Tag Archives: trains

Mad Dash

Public train transportation is the way to travel into the city if you want to ditch the traffic, read a book or fall asleep behind the wheel. Train commuting is a type of home away from home. The MBTA is not the way to travel if you desire consistently being on time, don’t like crowds or require privacy.

The 6:42 a.m. train was a unique scenario as we boarded the now 7:02 a.m. dark passenger cars in Shirley, MA. There was no battery power, lights or air conditioning. The passengers grumbled as they boarded their unreliable steel pool cars. One man in our boarding line read the riot act to the conductor. Said man was riding the rails to catch a 9:15 flight out of Logan. I think half of us were chuckling at the psychotic traveler; he wouldn’t have made that flight on a good day. He was already cutting it way too close for morning Uber traffic, and airport security checks, even if he did arrive in Boston by 8:00. The conductor told him the best bet was to wait for the next train. There were no guarantees and the crew was already hoping this engine would make it to North Station.

Reassured on every level, I made my way to the top of the double-decker.

We pulled into the next station braking with a jolt. Nobody on the train understood what that had to do with no battery. The Ayer passengers embarked complaining about both the lack of power and the man that ran in front of the train. Evidently, someone had crossed the tracks to get to their platform. When the man realized he dropped something, he ran back in front of the oncoming train to pick it up. Everyone waiting on the platform thought they were going to witness a fatal accident. As they boarded, the train was still dark but their trauma was visible. The situation added more time before we were underway again.

The next stop is right off the interstate, and the largest pick up. About 200 people boarded our moving cave and we were on our slow way again without incident.

We arrived at the next depot with incident. Passengers boarded and then the train stayed on the platform. We weren’t moving again. Everyone hedged their bets to either disembark and reboard the next train or wait it out and hope the situation improved. The experienced group I was sitting with knew better, got off the snail and lined up for the following train that would be pulling in any minute. About 300 people were back on the platform and headed to the crossover when the headlight of the the savior train appeared.

The crowd had words for each other as people tried to hurry in front of the next. Everyone jumbled together trying not to be last. The mayhem was railroad “musical chairs”, knowing not everyone would get a seat.

The rest of the ride was uneventful. We were already an hour behind schedule and so many people were standing up, the cars looked more like a subway. The situation could not possibly get worse but the earlier commuters remained visibly on edge.

This second train would arrive on time, so the last few standing passengers weren’t otherwise effected. They had lights and air conditioning. The commuters just outside the city had it made, they just didn’t know it. One woman, standing next to my seat, couldn’t understand the frenzy.

She remained positive, “The railroad does get us there.”

“Yes. This is still better than driving in traffic.” another Cambridge passenger agreed.

“Right? A few less seats does not make a difference.” declared the first.

A dangerous remark from someone that had just boarded in Belmont. I was already on the 2nd train, after the first arrived 20 minutes late, and was an hour behind schedule after offloading and reboarding with 300+ of my most intimate friends.

The morning commute included a bigger crowd, no privacy and I was late. Yes, I had avoided traffic and read a large part of my book. But no, I couldn’t fall asleep, even though it was so much like home. There had been a lot of excitement with the lights off.

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Friday night lights

I just discovered a blog entry I never published. At the time, I was settling into a new job. It’s ironic that I find it almost exactly one year later when I’m looking for a new position. The blog entry was in draft mode and is dated 7/18/16:

“Since the first day at my new job in Boston, I’ve missed the 5:07 train twice. The express follows thirty minutes later but regardless, both were on a Friday. Last week, I still managed to get to an early movie with my girlfriend. Tonight I decided to manage my blog and hang out with you fine people.

I just updated the settings on my site and took a few photos to share with you:

stairs
My new gym membership – 150 steps

I didn’t “run” the steps this evening but walking up still left me winded.

shoes
My new best friends

I leave my stilettos at the office and rely on Merrill street shoes for the commute.

train
Commuter rail train

Arrival of the train is always a welcome sight to the Sheldon Cooper in me!

Thanks for joining.  I know I’m not sitting here alone.

fans

This Friday night I’m with my 1,000+ followers.  Thanks for hanging out with me!”

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What are you scheduled to do this weekend?

Shut eye

I don’t usually sleep on the train but sometimes I force myself to take a nap and shut out the busy day and people around me…

 I close my eyes and listen to the comings and goings as I drift off to lala land. The end of conversations from the new arrivals are an eavesdropping point of interest, as they find their seats away from one another. The train whistle I’ve learned to drown out is a welcome charging sound into my dream. The train rumbles over the crossings and I enter into New York City’s polar opposite, the city that always sleeps. It’s a great place to spend time. I never know who I’m going to meet or what we’ll talk about in our bustling little world.

My subconscious helps me relax and tells a story just like the one I drifted from…

Running on empty

Throwback to being a younger Mom with a million things to do and not enough time for half of them. 

My heart went out to the young woman I  just saw running for the train. She had a bag wrapped around the front of her, a briefcase in one hand, a folded umbrella stroller in the other and oh yeah, a large infant strapped to her back. A woman trying to make it all work and not finding time for herself. I was tired for overloaded her as she actually managed to jump on the train. 

I still have a million things to do but I am making time for myself – and hoping my girls will never be too old for a piggy-back.

Jekyl and Hyde

Yesterday I felt fine. I left work with a fellow new employee and we chatted our way to Park Street. We continued our conversation standing on the red line.  I was in front of a young man with dread locks as long as he was tall. His stop arrived first and I heard in my ear, “excuse me, Sweetheart!”.  I gushed a surprised ‘you’re welcome’,  ‘thank you’ and something about turning 50. I noticed the crosses around his neck as he walked by and wished we had time to talk.

Today I feel miserable. I left work with a summer cold and a resting bitch face (RBF). I didn’t even want to look in anyone’s direction all the way to the underground. When I sat on the subway car behind the driver I noticed he looked as tired as I felt. He couldn’t shut the door because someone was on his first step asking directions and I thought in my head, “are you kidding me?”, “its rush hour?!” and something about the four foot tall wall map behind her. I noticed she was my daughter’s age but still wished she’d just stop talking.

Great Expectations

I’m quickly becoming a more seasoned commuter. I already have standards and expectations related to what services my ticket should provide. Between last night and this morning, I identified three city traveler, not necessarily basic needs,  but very reasonable wants. 

Even though I’m taking public transportation, I want and expect a certain modicum of privacy. Especially when I’m on the quiet train car directly behind the engine.  So busy body lady, if you have an issue with the guy who answered his cell phone only to tell his daughter he was almost there for pick up, take it up with him not me. I’m on the quiet train and I want more disruptive you to shut up. 

I want the city to issue entertainment permits on a daily basis for the stations I frequent. I was introduced to the Porter Square players, and others within the underground world, as a daily occurrence. Therefore, I expected to hear someone there again today. I enjoy my concerts down under and find them to be a valuable service for the city to allow. The music makes my heart happy and I am giving up heart and soul to be here.

My third of three want list items is just good business sense.If there are 8 train cars arriving to pick me up, I expect them all to be in working order. Don’t send two darkened train cars down the line and expect me to triple up with my fellow passengers. We were already getting to know one another in an up close and personal manner. I want to be able to sit down in Cambridge to do my thing, whatever that may be, and get up in Boston ready to start my professional day.

I understand that these aren’t all necessarily controllable but I want what I want. I do have standards, ya know. 

I couldn’t make this stuff up!

I see a newspaper man every morning and evening as I enter and depart the subway station. I don’t know if he’s there all day or if the papers in his hand are sold or given away. I’ve never seen anyone take one or exchange money with him. Everyone herds right past to enter the morning turnstiles or continue their way home at night.

This evening,  I knew I’d have an extra few minutes before the commuter train arrived. So, after walking up my steps 


and getting to the Mezanine, I caught my breath as I also caught up with this curious guy.

We had a nice talk as he explained his schedule. For a month now, I’d noticed no change to his expression amongst all the hustle and bustle. Tonight his demeanor and laugh were brighter than the skylights. I now know the cost of a smile, the  paper and his commission. I bought one simply because I considered him the entertainment section.  

With our moment in time, less than a minute, I also learned his name. As I walked toward my ride home, the grin on my face only took a second. I smirked because I’d already given my new Porter Square acquaintance a nickname. 

Tomorrow morning before I head into the subway, I’ll say hello to my newspaper guy, Harold. 

Harold Square.

Pleading the Fifth

I’m an auditor by trade. Risk assessments, critical paths and determining “worst case scenarios” are what I do best. This Monday morning, after deciding for the first time to get additional rest on the train (despite coming off a 4-day weekend), I determined my worst case scenario was falling asleep on the commuter rail. It’s a very safe environment and I was riding to the end of the line. Being compromised or missing my stop were low risks and therefore, not a concern. 

In hindsight, one can always learn from these types of drills. I’ll start with the positives: fellow commuters let you do your own thing and respect your space, neck pillows really are comfortable for resting in transit, moms watch out for one another. On the flip side, I did not wake up when I hit the end of the line. Lessons learned for next time (if there is one) include setting   an alarm for the trains scheduled arrival, being coherent enough to thank the last departing passenger (an Asian mom with two in tow) for waking me up and doing a sleep study to determine if I snore.

After wiping the sleep from my eyes and buying my monthly pass at North Station, I picked up the rainy green line for a straight shot to the office. I was pulled from my novel landscape when the one I was sitting in came to a standstill at Park Street. My powers of observation told me it was a disabled, wheel-chair bound man trying to make his way onto the already crowded train. His path was more critical than my own as he told people where and how to step aside, so that he could maneuver his chair into the handicapped section of the subway car. He was headed to Mass General Hospital (MGH). My worst case scenario was nothing compared to this person having to navigate the underground during a rainy rush hour. My newest concern was for him and as far as trades go, I did not want to switch places with him.